The piercing aromas and crisp acidity of Sauvignon Blanc elicit strong and varied reactions, but those pronounced characteristics are essential to its appeal. Fumé Blanc Sauvignon Blanc is at its best in the Loire and Bordeaux (with Sémillon) and in the New World, New Zealand. Without its characteristically high acidity, it lacks appeal.
In the vineyard, it is late to bud, and its medium-sized berries ripen early. It does best in cool but sunny climates with chalky, flinty and marl soils. Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t take well to oak, and is instead fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel. Emphasis is placed on preservation of youthful fruit, and most Sauvignon Blancs are designed to be drunk young. The exceptions to the rule occur in Bordeaux, where Sauvignon Blanc, blended with Sémillon, are often aged in oak and provide acidity, and in addition, oak aging of some Fumé Blanc from California. French winemaker Didier Dagueneau has become known as somewhat of a revolutionary in Puilly-Fumé by creating robust, oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc.
The Loire Valley’s Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé appellations vinify some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. It does well in several other areas too, notably in Bordeaux, where it is blended with Sémillon and oak aged. Certain other areas of Southern France also produce some good Sauvignon Blanc wine. A limited amount of Sauvignon Blanc is produced in Italy and Spain.
Perhaps the best examples of Sauvignon Blanc in the New World can be found in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, which constantly produces fantastic grassy, tropical wines. Other areas of note are Australia, the South African Overberg region, Chile’s Casablanca, and California. “Fumé Blanc” is often used to label Sauvignon Blanc, but it is a mere marketing tool and doesn’t necessarily mean oak aged. It totally depends on the winery.